What sort of woman has a taste for middle-aged, married men? Ellie, a university student and would-be writer, leads a carefree life in Paris until she meets Monsieur, a doctor more than twice her age. Beginning with their passionate encounter in a hotel room in the fifteenth arrondissement, Monsieur details their clandestine affair: the fleeting phone calls, the illicit meetings, the sexual adventures — and the devastating aftermath.
Often shocking but never gratuitous, Monsieur is a groundbreaking account of self-discovery and seduction. Ellie’s journey takes her from the highs of unquenchable desire to the edge of madness in this lucid, ferocious, and eloquent tale of a contemporary Lolita.
Monsieur is described as a semi-autobiographical story of a passionate affair between a twenty-year old student and a plastic surgeon twice her age.
First of all, I have to admit that I didn’t expect it to be quite as graphic as it was. Not that this bothers me, at all. And I probably should have guessed, given that the reason for the initial contact between main characters Ellie and Monsieur is their shared love of erotic literature. Becker writes her many sex scenes in a crude and honest manner which makes Fifty Shades look like a children’s book.
I found it fairly easy to relate to Ellie’s character. I’m not massively proud of the fact that I’ve been in a similar destructive relationship, so some of her descriptions about the desperation she felt when waiting for him to call really was scarily easy to relate to. I can totally understand that most readers would be wondering why she doesn’t just give up on him. To a certain extent I think she knows that she should as well, but thoughts of him cloud her judgement and affect the way she thinks about other, more potentially suitable men.
As for Monsieur? I really hated him. Pure and simple. A plastic surgeon at the top of his game, of course you’d expect him to be a little egotistical. But I thought he was frankly awful. He too is desperate. To push boundaries, to become infamous in the book he tells her to write, and yet not to be found out by his wife or those who know him. Perhaps the hate is a little subcoscious, linking him to the person he would be in my own story, but I didn’t think he treated Ellie with any respect, which I’d have expected, given that their initial contact was down to a mutual interest in a subject which she started off showing a lot of knowledge about.
I felt that throughout the course of the book, Monsieur treated Ellie more and more like a young schoolgirl and that this treatment was reflected in her actions to a certain extent. A student in the midst of strikes, she doesn’t have anything to focus on, aside from her growing obsession with her Monsieur. Once he ceased contact with her, her actions during the time she spends on holiday with her friends comes across as a childish sulk. As do her liaisons with the other men in her life – I felt she was using them in desperation to prove that she didn’t need Monsieur any longer. Until the moment he would throw some attention her way and the metaphorical house of cards would tumble down once more.
I found Monsieur a cathartic read, which had me gripped. Read it, but perhaps don’t leave it lying around in your grandmother’s house.